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Trillian, Eskom and the Guptas – why all the fuss?

Oct 28 2016 07:50
Matthew le Cordeur, with Pieter-Louis Myburgh

Cape Town – Trillian Capital Partners was flung into the spotlight this week after a leaked affidavit claimed it was behind state capture plans when Des van Rooyen was finance minister for a few days in 2016.

The purported leaked affidavit by a whistleblower and former executive at Trillian found its way to the front page of the Sunday Times, revealing how Trillian CEO Eric Wood briefed his team about Nhlanhla Nene’s firing two months before it occurred.

Apart from denying the allegation, Trillian said it was unhappy with the association of being a “Gupta-linked company”.

“The Gupta family has no shareholding or other interest whatsoever in Trillian Holdings. It has no link to Trillian Holdings or to any of the other constituent members of the Trillian group of companies,” Trillian said in a statement on Sunday.  

READ: Gupta-linked firm ‘knew of’ Nenegate weeks in advance - report

Trillian said it “continues to conduct its business in keeping with the highest standards of corporate governance and service delivery, and will continue do so”.

News24 investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh visited Trillian this week to view its shareholding structure, after its chairperson Tokyo Sexwale announced he would set up an independent investigation into the allegations.

READ: Trillian chair Tokyo Sexwale to probe shock Gupta-Nenegate claims

The structure reveals that Trillian Capital Partners is 60% owned by Trillian Holdings Pty Ltd, which is wholly owned by Salim Essa.

According to a report by amaBhungane in March, Essa’s association with the Guptas cannot be disputed. (View their report, which contains an infographic that details the connections).

“A company of which Salim Essa’s wife, Zeenat, is the sole director was shown to hold about 5% of the Gupta family-controlled Shiva Uranium when its holding company listed in 2014,” it explained.

“Another company, Elgasolve, 100% owned by Essa, holds or held about 75% of VR Laser Services, a steel fabrication company in which Gupta family investment vehicles have a 25% shareholding.

“Essa’s Elgasolve also owns about 22% of Tegeta Exploration and Resources,” it said. This is the Gupta-owned company that bought Optimum Coal.

AmaBhungane claimed Essa “has, or has had, direct connections with at least five company directors of Eskom alone”.

Eskom denies contract links with Trillian

With Trillian back in the spotlight, journalists have been quick to dig deeper into its relationship with Eskom.

The power utility issued a statement on Thursday saying it has been “inundated with media queries about the contract it has allegedly awarded to advisory group Trillian Capital Partners”.

Eskom said it has no contracts in place with Trillian Capital Partners, and explained how the company became service providers during its load shedding crisis.

The power utility said its financial challenges “required Eskom to engage with a wide variety of service providers to mitigate against these risks with a sense of urgency”.

“These service providers included Deloitte Consulting, Barclays, McKinsey, Citibank, the Public Investment Corporation and Trillian.”

On its website, Trillian said it offers strategy development and implementation services, as well as transaction structuring and execution.

Eskom said Trillian did not provide any assistance on an analysis of the China Development Bank’s $500m loan facility, which was successfully concluded.

It was also not involved in an analysis of a Goldman Sachs R30bn loan facility, which Eskom did not proceed with, and assistance with negotiations for Eskom’s Duvha insurance claim.

Another state capture doc leak points to Essa and Guptas

It was revealed on Friday that the firm caught up in the Denel and Denel Asia joint venture - VR Laser - is at the heart of a document given to the public protector into the investigation of the Guptas having undue influence over cabinet appointments due to their friendship with President Jacob Zuma.

Going against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's orders and against the Public Finance Management Act, Denel created the joint venture, saying Denel Asia - which is also called VR Laser Asia - had a strong relationship with its SA-based company VR Laser.

VR Laser Asia is 100% owned by Essa, who denied there was a link between this company and VR Laser SA, the Business Day dislcosed on Friday.

"His attorney, Charles van Staden of Hogan Lovells, states that Essa established VR Laser Asia 'in his private capacity' and 'it is not a subsidiary of the local VR Laser Services, (Pty) Limited.' Van Staden confirms that VR Laser Asia 'is and remained dormant to date', said the letter dating back to July 18 2016," the paper states.

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eskom  |  gupta familly  |  state capture
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